Top lawmakers meet with Rauner to discuss new budget

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, speaks with press after leaving a leaders meeting Thursday, April 12. (Emily Manley)

Top lawmakers met with Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday to discuss the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

Inching closer to the May 31 legislative deadline, lawmakers seemed pretty optimistic after leaving Thursday’s meeting.

The four legislative caucus leaders filed into the Republican governor's office Thursday.

It's just the second leaders meeting that's included the governor that's taken place in the past year and a half.

“I think the governor was wise to call this meeting and get the ball rolling,” Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said.

“We have six weeks left and I think we can get the task of passing a balanced budget done if the Democrats want to cooperate with us,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said.

After the meeting, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, remained critical of Rauner’s proposed budget.

“I’m going to assume that he is supportive now of the revenue estimates that he has in his own budget that have the tax increase in place,” Cullerton said.

Rauner said that’s not the case. He wants the tax hike rolled back.

To be able to do that, Rauner said the legislature needs to work on reforming the state’s pension system.

“I proposed a tax cut, but that tax cut is conditioned upon pension reform, if and when that gets approved by the courts,” Rauner said.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was the only leader to not speak directly to press after the meeting.

Instead, he issued the following statement:

“Today I advised the governor and the other leaders that we are already at work on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget with our colleagues across the aisle, just as we did a year ago when Republicans and Democrats stood together to end the Rauner budget crisis. If the governor is finally ready to accept responsibility for the management of the state and be an honest partner in trying to pass a budget, we welcome him to this process.
“In the past, Governor Rauner has resorted to severe cuts targeting women, children and the elderly. Democrats cannot accept this. If the governor’s agenda is to push more of his extreme cuts to health care, senior services, and resources for our most at-risk residents, or if he intends to again move the goalposts and create chaos, he should stay on the sidelines and allow serious leaders to continue working cooperatively to address the challenges facing our state.”

Rauner sent the following letter to the legislative leaders Wednesday:

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